Sunday, June 14, 2009

strawberry picking inevitably leads to pie

Today a friend recommend (Dorsie's bestie), Olivia, took Elizabeth and I out to Sauvie Island, a little island in the middle of the Willamette River, which runs through Portland. We went to a little family farm where she used to do catering, called Kruger Farms, where you can pick your own strawberries for only 1.35 a pound. A pound of berries is a lot of berries. This is a great deal, and pretty damn fun no matter how old you are. We picked a whole flat of berries, 12 pints in all, of which Olivia took 4. Needless to say, something needed to be done with all these berries. Pie was the obvious answer.

I only ever use one crust when I make pie. It is the Basic Pie Dough from the Joy of Cooking (from memory)...

Crust is the secret of pie. It needs to be flaky and buttery and just right.

The secret of a good flaky crust is butter and hands. Put that mixer away. If you want to make a good crust you have to use your hands. I learned how to do this when I was a kid making scones with my Mom. Thanks Mom.

Cut up 2/3 cup cold butter into tiny cubes and toss into a bowl with 2 cups flour. Work in the butter with your hands until there are a bunch of pea sized butter balls throughout the flour. Then put about 5-6 tablespoons of ice cold water ( a little more or less depending on the temperature) and work in with your hands again. Once you get a dough ball going just pick up the other bits of loose flower with it. Like cleaning clay off the table...

Put your dough ball in a plastic bag in the freezer. Time for the innards.

I pulled the heads off all those little strawberries, chopped them up (pretty haphazardly, i'm actually not much of a meticulous sous-chef) and threw them in a bowl with two handfuls of flour, two GRACIOUS handfuls of brown sugar, a small squirt of lemon juice, and some chopped fresh mint from the garden.

A NOTE ON HARVESTING FRESH HERBS: For herbs like sage and mint, you will notice that they grow off a central stalk with pairs of leaves opposite each other. You don't want to pull off individual leaves (like you do when harvesting spinach/lettuce/chard/kale) but snip the whole top of the stalk , right above one of these axes.

The dough should be a good consistency after being in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Turn the oven to 425, and flour the counter. I never roll out the dough for the inner crust, I just push it in with my fingers, but you can if you want. Use a little more than half the dough for this, and roll out the rest for the top. I opted for a lattice top for this pie, but I am often a proponent of making shapes and other designs for the top of a pie. Prick the inner pie crust in the dish with a fork a few times. I'm not sure why you do this, but its important. This time I sprinkled a little brown sugar on it, a trick Elizabeth tried on her last pie. Put the crust, sans-filling in the oven for 10-15 minutes. It should just be starting to brown. Take it out, add the filling, top it how you will, turn down the heat to 375, and bake for 45 min. Its ready when the berries are bubbling and the top crust is browned. Take it out and let cool--the hot bubbly berries will cool into a delicious syrup.

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